Dortmund’s citizen-centered approach

Dortmund’s citizen-centered approach

22 February 2021

Dortmund is among proGIreg pioneers in implementing nature-based solutions in post-industrial sites. Amidst the ongoing isolation wrought on by the pandemic, the Dortmund Living Lab has not foregone citizen engagement, and is looking ahead to 2021.

In late 2020 the Living Lab launched a new local website in German to inform and engage locals. The website informs the local public about nature-based solutions and proGireg’s work in the Living Lab such as urban gardening, creating pollinator habitats and aquaponics. The name of the website ‘Hansagrün’ was chosen as ‘Hansa’ is the name of the former coking plant in the proGIreg living lab area, which is now undergoing a ‘green’ (grün) transformation. The website will act as a bridge between citizens, local decision makers, organisations and practitioners on the area.

Photo: The old Hansa Coking Plant in Dortmund, proGIreg

The proGIreg Living Lab Dortmund team, lead by the South Westfalia University of Applied Sciences (SWUAS) in Soest (Agricultural Department) have plans to start a citizen-led non-profit association taking the template of an already successful one in the city of Issum, called ‘Naturfelder’ for work on proGIreg nature-based solution on pollinator biodiversity. They are currently is running a media campaign with interviews of experts on Youtube, amplified via social media channels and is offering public information events via Zoom to engage citizens to build this association, in order to foster co-ownership of nature-based solutions in the area, thus ensuring their longevity and to educate locals about the benefits of the solutions.

Picture: Campaign Poster 'Everyone can help insects', Die Urbanisten

Why an association? The Naturfelder concept has proven successful due to its multilateral and holistic approach. The association includes local farmers, the municipality, private property owners and environmental associations. The association’s founder and pollinator expert Ingo Bläser found that there were many areas underutilized by the municipality that could be harnessed to flower meadows for pollinators – creating a win-win situation of urban green areas for the benefit of the citizens and a low-threshold renewal of vacant sites, such as fields, lawns and fallow lands, for the municipality. The association got off to a dynamic start with the municipality welcoming the changes, and interest from the citizens, with many offering their own greenery to be transformed to a flowering meadow. Membership fees and donations fund the association’s work (seeds, work of local farmers), with the Municipality, pitching in once they saw the benefits of the work. 

How to create a flower meadow for pollinators? Ingo Bläser outlines the following steps:

  1. First and foremost one needs to identify an area and get municipal permission
  2. Explore the natural state: soil quality, existing plants, climatic conditions, water availability, seasonality
  3. Choose the suitable seed mix
  4. Find partners e.g. local farmers for lending machinery and a hand
  5. Plan for resilience, e.g. if the area is prone to dry seasons, plan ahead and dig wells to store water runoff
  6. Have members pick up shovels, for a great chance for hands on learning


Photo: Spring 2021 in the Living Lab, Stadt Dortmund

The benefit of flower meadows are their multiple benefits, in addition to aesthetic delight, the fields enhance pollinator biodiversity, provide green spaces for citizens to enjoy and engage in. Further flowering meadows are an appealing project for funding as they show immediate effects, are easy to replicate and do not require a long commitment. ProGireg’s Dortmund Living Lab plans on using a similar practical approach to engaging locals to increase pollinator biodiversity. See the Naturfelder interview with Ingo Bläser on the Naturfelder Youtube channel for more insights on flower meadows and building local environmental momentum. Keep a close eye on Dortmund as proGIreg will report on the growing nature-based solutions on site this year.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 innovation action programme under grant agreement no. 776528. The sole responsibility for the content of this website lies with the proGIreg project and in no way reflects the views of the European Union.